Sniffer dogs aid Madeleine police

Hampshire Chronicle: Portuguese police search scrubland in Praia da Luz Portuguese police search scrubland in Praia da Luz

Sniffer dogs and specialist teams have been used to search an area of scrubland close to where Madeleine McCann went missing in Portugal seven years ago.

The development came as British officers, accompanied by their Portuguese counterparts, spent a second day investigating the hilly area in the resort of Praia da Luz on the Algarve.

The large area of scrubland was a hive of activity today as police carried out fingertip searches in the undergrowth, scouring the ground for clues as to what happened to Madeleine, who disappeared in May 2007 aged three.

The officers, who were in Metropolitan Police uniform, searched the long grass on their hands and knees, accompanied by one of the two sniffer dogs as they scanned the rubbish-strewn ground.

Police have also been granted permission to probe two others areas of land, it is understood.

One of these is believed to be even closer to the holiday apartment where the McCann family were staying. But they have been given a deadline of Friday, and it is understood that if nothing of significance is found before then, they must stop.

Soil samples could be seen being taken today while officers in Met Police uniform used a spade to dig nearby.

One held a black bucket for the other to shovel earth into before taking it away to be looked through. In the same area, forestry workers used strimmers to cut back swathes of undergrowth to aid the search.

Specialist teams are also expected to use ground-penetrating radar equipment to probe the ground and look for disturbed earth, although none has been seen yet.

A number of small tents have been erected inside the cordon and a number of Portuguese police vans could be seen on top of a large mound in the middle of the area, which overlooks the sea.

Officers were overseen by the Met's Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood, the senior officer investigating the case who has also flown out to Portugal.

The large area of land is being guarded day and night by armed local police with dogs, and a large yellow-and-white cordon was put in place ahead of the search.

Local police officers on horseback patrolled it today while others walked up and down with German shepherds.

The sniffer dogs being used are from South Wales Police. The English springer spaniels, called Tito and Muzzy, were also used during the search for murdered schoolgirl April Jones in 2012.

The land, a few minutes' walk from the Ocean Club resort apartment where Madeleine was staying with her family, has been searched before.

TV crews and journalists from around the world have gathered as the search - seen as one of the biggest developments in the investigation in recent years - takes place.

Madeleine's parents, Kate and Gerry, have not flown out to Portugal but are being kept informed of any developments that occur.

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